Zoom F8

Should you buy the Zoom F8 field recorder?

The announcement of the Zoom F8 in early 2015 was big news. Finally, a field recorder existed that offered some of the same features found on professional models that cost three times as much. On one hand, it seemed like a revelation — but it also seemed fishy. How many corners were cut to get the price that low, and are the missing features going to cause you pain?

My intention with this post isn’t to go into great detail about the specifications and features of the F8. That information is easy to find with a quick search. I want to shine a light on the kind of people who will truly benefit from buying the Zoom F8.

First let me explain exactly what the Zoom F8 is: this is a field recorder that can record 10 tracks of audio (8 isolated and a stereo mix). It has 8 XLR inputs, built-in timecode with input and output ports, it can run on batteries or AC power, etc. This is a recorder designed primarily for video production. In the image at the top of this post it’s mounted under a DSLR. That’s not the primary use for this thing, but, it’s something you can do with it.

Naturally, if the F8 was designed to record the audio for video productions, it should be a good option for a person who does that kind of work, right? Personally, I don’t find this to be the case. The F8 has some of the tools a professional audio person needs, but, it’s missing some essentials, too. If you’re doing paid audio-for-video jobs, and this is the work you do for food, clothing, and shelter, you probably don’t want an F8. You are much better off using a machine from Sound Devices or Zaxcom.

Why? When you’re a freelance audio professional, you need to deliver the goods. Recording audio for video productions is tough work. Your gear travels all over the place. You often strap it to your body all day long. You use it indoors and out. You use it in rainstorms, snowstorms, and saunas. The electronics you use in this line of work needs to be built for battle. You need tanks, and tanks are expensive. Sound Devices and Zaxcom only manufacture tanks.

One of the missing features on the F8 are physical faders for the tracks. The knobs on its face are for adjusting the trim of the preamps. Most professional devices of this sort have preamp knobs in addition to having smooth fader knobs for each channel. Preamp trims are used for setting your levels; faders are used to bring channels in and out of the mix, and to fine tune levels when you’re rolling. Working without physical faders would be awful.

To compensate for this, the Zoom F8 features a dedicated mobile app which enables you to control virtual faders via Bluetooth from a paired mobile device. In my opinion, this is totally lousy. Riding the faders is one of the more satisfying tasks in location work. Doing this with a mobile device is just totally unappealing. The beauty of having good physical faders is the ability to control them perfectly without looking.

Zoom F8 and Apple iPhone

Doing the mixing with a mobile device, especially for bag work is just wrong. Maybe if you had a cosy desk to sit at with an iPad to mix on it would be okay, but that’s it.

One of the things you need to do as a location sound person is to tell other people to turn off their phones. Mobile devices spray nasty sounding RF, which can create audible noise in the audio. If someone gets a text in the middle of a take, it can ruin the sound, even when the phone is silenced. This doesn’t always happen, but it certainly happens. If you need to tell people to stop using their beloved phones while you have one strapped to your chest, you’re going to look like a jerk.

Not only is a touchscreen a crappy surface to mix on, your gadget will likely distract you from your job. Phones and tablets glow and cast light everywhere, which will annoy the grips. And, I feel I need to say this again: mixing sound with a virtual fader on a flat plane of glass is lame. You should be able to close your eyes and mix a scene. Not possible with the F8.

Another big missing feature is a “Return” input. Why do you need this? When you do sound for video production, you are usually expected to feed the main camera an audio mix. This doesn’t need to be the final audio, it can just be a scratch mix, but it still needs to sound good. The only way to know if the mix you’re sending to the camera sounds okay and isn’t having technical problems is to listen to it. But how to you listen to a camera’s headphone output if you’re standing fifteen feet away from it with a boompole in your hands? You do this with the return input.

The best way to send a camera an audio feed is with a special cable called a “breakaway cable.” This is a bundle of cables bound together. It provides you with a way to send your mix to the camera, and a way to plug into the headphone output of the camera, so you can listen to it on the other end through your mixer.

Comtek System for location audio
The Comtek PR-216 and M-216 can be used in a “Camera Hop” system.

Sometimes this done wirelessly. You need a stereo transmitter plugged into an auxiliary output on your mixer and you place a stereo receiver on the camera. You also need to plug a transmitter into the camera’s headphone output (perhaps using a Comtek system), and plug the receiver from that system into the return input on your mixer. This elaborate system is called a Camera Hop. The problem is that the Zoom F8 isn’t a full-blown mixer, and it doesn’t have a return input. I imagine the vast majority of people who are thinking about getting the Zoom F8 are picturing using it without a separate field mixer, but this is would be a severely lacking setup for this kind of work.

Who is the Zoom F8 good for?

Is the Zoom F8 for the person who cannot afford a Zaxcom or Sound Devices? The obvious answer is yes, but here’s the thing:

No one can afford Sound Devices or Zaxcom gear!

Professional quality equipment from Sound Devices, Zaxcom, and Lectrosonics are not purchased exclusively by rich people. Quite the opposite. They are purchased by people who save to get the tools required to deliver perfect sound to their clients every time, whether the shoot takes place in the Arctic Circle or the Sahara. The F8 doesn’t deliver this level of confidence.

If you’re just getting started in location audio and you want to become a pro, the F8 would look intensely tempting. But ultimately, I don’t think it’s a good option for this kind of user.

8 individual tracks of audio is A LOT. If you need this many tracks for a video production, you are likely running several wireless microphones, in addition to a boom mic or two. This would be a pretty complex shoot. It isn’t hard to imagine a low-budget reality show that needs more than five wireless mics running with isolated tracks of each mic. Someone producing a low-budget show like this would need to seek out a freelance sound person who would be willing to work for a low rate. That person might have an F8.

But here’s the thing: do you want to be that person? You would be doing an insane amount of work for a very low wage using thousands and thousands of dollars of your own equipment. Sounds like a pretty lame deal to me. The person who takes this job ultimately will want to aspire to better productions. When they get there, they will likely ditch the F8 for gear that is up to par with the work. This is why you’re better off skipping low-budget equipment, even if it looks pro.

Zoom F8 and output cables

If you’re just starting out in location audio, or, if you’ve been doing it passively for a while but the expensive price of pro recorders kept you from going all in, the F8 would be tempting. But honestly, this doesn’t seem like the best use of $1000 for these people.

In professional location audio work, your wireless microphones are your most important pieces of equipment. Professional wireless microphones cost a lot of money, too. If you aspire to be a professional location audio person, that $1000 would be better spent on a used pro-level wireless kit from Lectrosonics, even if they’re 10 years old. Don’t get an F8, get a used Lectrosonics 200 series wireless kit from eBay. You’re only getting a single wireless mic instead of 10 tracks of audio and a professional-looking gizmo, but, that single wireless mic is going to be something you rely upon constantly.

Depending on what kind of work you do, chances are you will very rarely need 8 individual tracks of audio, if ever. I’ve done lots of different kinds of shoots, everything from short films to web TV series to documentary. I’ve never needed more than 4 tracks. The vast majority of stuff I’ve done has been 2 tracks. Therefore, one of the most alluring things about the F8 is complete overkill for the vast majority of shoots.

So wait… who is the Zoom F8 good for?

The way I see it, the people who could get the best use out of a Zoom F8 are established pros. People who already own top-of-the-line gear from Sound Devices and Zaxcom, who need a small machine to do less important jobs. They likely run into situations once in a while where all of their good machines are busy, and if they had one more they could use it for a given low-priority task that popped up.

The F8 may also work well for corporate situations that are more studio based, rather than run-and-gun field work. If you have a panel of five or more people speaking, and they all need a mic, the F8 could be a decent tool to use.

I didn’t write this post to intentionally beat up the Zoom F8. It’s an interesting product, and it’s impressive for its price. The graphic user interface looks nicely designed. People who have used it are saying positive things about the quality of the preamps and the capability of its time code system.

Those people also have negative things to say about the F8. The headphone output sounds inaccurate (your recorded files will sound different than what you hear in the headphones). The trim knobs are too small, and there are other important buttons around them that you can accidentally press if you’re not careful. Its limiters exist in the digital realm, so if a hot audio signal distorts at the mic input stage, the F8 can’t try to limit that already distorted sound until it passes through the digital converter.

There are rumors that Zoom may be looking to update the firmware of the F8 so you can use its trim knobs as fader knobs, too. That would be an improvement, but not enough of one to make the Zoom F8 the best option for aspiring location sound people and filmmakers.

Zoom H5 recorder

If you want nice sounding preamps but you don’t want to spend lots of money, I think recorders like the Zoom H5 and the Tascam DR-70D make a lot more sense for the majority of people out there. These cheaper recorders also make more sense for location sound people who are just starting out. It’s okay to start out with an entry-level recording device. It’s just smarter to buy real pro gear if you want to be a pro. It’s more expensive, but ultimately, it will save you money. If you are going pro, you are going to need that high-end gear, whether you buy an F8 or not.

If you’re an independent filmmaker who doesn’t own any audio recorders yet, you definitely don’t need a Zoom F8. Seriously. Go work on your story, do some preproduction… anything else related to your film. Tell the gear lust that drove you to read this entire article to go take a hike. :)

UPDATE – January 2016: Zoom recently updated the firmware for the F8. It now gives you the option to use its trim knobs as faders. In order to switch each channel from being a trim knob to a fader, a four step process is required, which involves selecting items from its on-screen menus.

UPDATE – November 2016: No one should decide whether or not to but the Zoom F8 until they have thoroughly checked out the new Zoom F4. This model was announced in November 2016, and you can read my thoughts on the device in this dedicated blog post.

Purchase links:

Zoom F8 - Amazon USA, B&H Photo, Amazon.fr
Zoom F4 - Amazon USA, B&H Photo
Zoom H5 - Amazon USA, B&H Photo, Amazon.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr
Tascam DR-70D - Amazon USA, B&H Photo, Amazon.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr

Published by

Sam

Writer, musician, photo taker and video maker. When not writing somewhat longish articles for this blog, I write incredibly short things on Twitter: @SamMallery

33 thoughts on “Should you buy the Zoom F8 field recorder?”

  1. Hi Joe. Yup. This isn’t a hands-on review of the F8. I don’t have one. Just expressing my opinion based on the facts of what this recorder offers, and my own experiences in doing sound for video production.

    No physical faders = major problem
    No return input = major problem
    10 channels of recording = overkill for the vast majority of jobs

    I’m just trying to save people from gear lust. The F8 is kind of nice, but only for very specific uses + users, in my opinion.

  2. I do not know Sam. I’ve been a professional Audio Engineer / Sound Supervisor for 23 years and consider myself a “pro”.
    I own a 788T and other Sound Devices gear among other brands. I’ve done TV, Film, (Music) and have been nominated and or won almost every award out there. I just purchased a Zoom F8 as a back up to some of my other gear.
    Although you are correct about the trim, return, headphone amp Etc.
    The Timecode is spot on (I did a 16 hour test and it kept up with my 788T) and the pres are incredible for dialogue!
    I would not use it to record an orchestra, but a reality show or commercial? You betcha!
    When you look at the $1000 price and the quality compared to my $10k recorders, it’s shockingly closer than you think.
    I think you are wrong to advise someone to buy a single wireless system. What the “F” will they do with it?
    A better bet would be to buy this unit, and have the money to purchase wireless as you go! Or rent wireless and start yourself a little bag! It was people like you that discouraged me as a kid and held me back for years. When I decided to say “F” it and ignor the “experts” I slowly built my rigs and became one of the top Sound men in the US, maybe the world!

  3. Hi Chris,

    First of all, I would like to sincerely thank you for visiting my site and posting a comment. I respect that you disagree with my advice, but I stand by it. I think there are much better ways to spend $1000 on gear when you’re first starting out.

    I realize the timecode system in the F8 is solid, but this isn’t going to help someone who is just starting out. I’d wager that the timecode features on the F8 provide zero benefit to a beginner. As far as the preamps on the F8 being good for dialog, I’m sure they’re fine, but, a person who aspires to be a pro should be able to get great sound using the preamps on a cheap recorder like the Zoom H4n or the Tascam DR-70D. You don’t need high-end preamps to record great sound for video productions.

    Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough in my article, but I didn’t intend to say that someone should buy a single wireless system and nothing else. I assumed that they would also have a cheap recorder (like a Zoom H4n), a pair of headphones, an entry-level shotgun, wind protection for the shotgun, and a boompole. You need all of that stuff to properly record sound for video. You need a bunch more, but those are the basic building blocks. I still don’t think a $1000 8-track recorder with timecode is a basic necessity. A professional quality — better than a Sennheiser G3 wireless system is. Sennheiser G3’s are fine to start with, too. But, if you are serious, you are going to buy higher-quality systems eventually. I think the earlier you get them, the better.

    This statement of yours bummed me out a bit –

    “It was people like you that discouraged me as a kid and held me back for years.”

    My blog is all about encouragement. It’s all about helping people who are learning about creative production. How am I discouraging anyone in this post? I’m encouraging people to buy the gear they will need the most, not waste it on something that won’t provide much benefit.

    I’m glad you like your F8. You fit the profile of user that I think benefits the most from buying one — an experienced pro who needs a backup system. I still think a beginner should start with a different machine, and I’m proud that I’ve created a popular resource that provides a wealth of information and giant buckets of encouragement every single day.

    Best,
    Sam

  4. This review is a very mixed bag of facts (some of which are wrong) and personal opinion from a person who has not used the device. I would think twice about taking seriously a car review from someone who has not sat in the car! :) So same goes for the F8.

    The F8 does have Faders!

    I am puzzled why you need a Return feed in a field recorder (studio, yes, but in the field?). Anyway, there is nothing to stop you getting a pre fade output on Sub 1/2 and feeding it into an effects device, then taking that device’s signal into channels 7/8 (say,) and then recording that. Most people would, however just record all tracks and do extra stuff in post.

    With regards to cost, the writer first makes the good point of investing in good mics, but then complains that the F8 at only $1k is not good value??? Try a SoundDevices recorder then, matey!

    He then recommends an H4n!!! Has he ever listened to the pre-amps on an H4n??? If that is his suggested recorder then there is no point in investing in quality mics!

    I think the article’s value is aptly summed up by the opening photo with the camera mounted backwards on top of the F8 – maybe for a selfie? LOL

  5. Hi Paul. Thanks for commenting. When this post was written, Zoom had not released the Firmware 2.0 update that introduced the ability to use the gain knobs as faders. I appreciate your comment because it brought this to my attention. I’ll add a little “UPDATE” note to the end of the article.

    I read through the portion of the firmware update, and while it’s great that Zoom has added this, it’s still a compromise. This article (and my blog in general) is a place where I express my opinion, and this update, as nice as it is, doesn’t change my opinion of the F8.

    The trim knobs are still the same size, which many people find to be too small. The buttons around them can still accidentally be pushed. The ability to use the trim knobs as faders is definitely a plus, but it’s a four step process involving making selections in menus to turn on a fader for each track. That’s not exactly a lightning-fast solution. It’s still a great addition, but it doesn’t change my mind about the product.

    I clearly explain why you need a return for field work in this article. When you arrive on set as the paid professional sound person and production asks you to send the cameras audio, you are going to need to be able to monitor the camera audio and your bag’s audio. This is accomplished with a return. The solution you suggest includes utilizing an effects processor. This doesn’t make sense to me, unless you want to be the person on a film set with an Alesis MIDIVERB slung over your shoulder ;). The return is not for recording. It’s for monitoring.

    I don’t know what else to say about that.

    I don’t recommend the Zoom H4n in the article. I recommend the Zoom H5 or the Tascam DR-70D. But, that said, I disagree with this statement of yours:

    If that is his suggested recorder then there is no point in investing in quality mics!

    If you’re reading this comment and you own and use a Zoom H4n, you will notice an appreciable improvement in sound quality if you invest in better quality mics.

    Anyways… thanks for visiting and engaging in this blog. Have a good one!

  6. Well having used the F8 for a couple of months I have to say, its better than a 744t without a doubt. The limiter is really the F8’s weak point however even that is moot since running dual channel gives you safety tracks. Ultimately I feel the F8 makes a perfect 4 channel field recorder (Boom+3 wireless with safety tracks). And its pretty easy to dedicate a channel as a return. It probably seems I am suffering from F8 bias but I have owned and used many field recorders and they all fall short in some way. I hated on Zoom for years but this is a whole other beast. Its not hard to figure the market was due for a shake up. Cheap wireless is now digital and free of companders (Rodelink, Sennheiser AVX) which use to be exclusive territory of companies like Lectro and Zaxcom. So seeing Zoom put out a 744t/633 wannabe just makes sense. Even with these changes sound mixers will still have need for top tier mics, field mixers, carbon boom poles, blimps, etc. Its very similiar to the way DSLR changed the game for film making. Cheap camera/expensive lenses compared to cheap field recorders/expensive mics. Its the way the market is headed regardless of anyones approval.

  7. Thanks for the review, the things you say make sense. I’m leaning towards the F8 because while I want to record location sounds, the things you mentioned aren’t important to me. I won’t be going on shoots, I want to capture high quality resolution fx for libraries and gaming resources. I like the 8 XLR ins too. The money I save on the F8 I can spend on an MKH 800 mic. It’s worth recording at 192k if the mic is capable of grabbing sound up there. Cheers for the info.

  8. I love my F8. Not wanting to repeat what other have said, my comments are in addition to them:

    Love the iPad bluetooth control. I can now do my own sound test, when necessary. Just stand at the mic. and view and adjust trim using the iPad in my hand. Fantastic!

    +ves
    Sound quality is great.

    I made a patch cord to power the F8 from a Sony type V-Battery.

    I tend to use the F8 with a Ninja Blade on top, on a 2nd tripod. This way the camera tripod head is not over weighted. Sometime I plug in a Zoom shotgun into the capsule socket, to give me atmos/backup.

    -ves
    Very few! Wish the capsule socket was horizontal. Makes no sense to have a stereo X-Y capsule vertical!
    Wish that the backup track trim would track the master track. At the moment I have to do this manually
    Wish that the base plate and the top bracket would have a 2nd hole/protrusion to mate with video gear to prevent accidental lateral movement.
    Would like to have an overall Fader control, but I can do this via the iPad.

  9. I’ve been using my F8 since Oct 2015 on mission critical field shoots for broadcast television. It hasn’t failed me yet, and I have access to a number of Sound Devices gear – 788t, 744t & the 702t. I have a 552 in my personal collection, and it hasn’t seen much action since picking up the F8. On my first few gigs with it, I brought along my 552/744t combo as backup (because I really wanted to see what the F8 could do, but leave myself with a safety net), and it never came out of the van.

    I agree with some of the assessments listed here – even with the 2.0 firmware update, the Trim/Fader/Pan on a single dial can be a bit cumbersome until you get the hang of it. It hasn’t hindered me in the field yet. Yes, the dials are small, but I have small fingers, so no problems there for me. That said, I could see issues with those with larger hands.

    I haven’t used the iPad control yet (other than setting it up to play with), but I could see using it on the right studio/theater type gig, but it wouldn’t be practical for run and gun.

    After 6 months of solid use, I’d have to say that it’s a great little unit, and my shoulder is happy that I’m not lugging around a 788 or 552/744 in my bag.

  10. I can see the point the author is trying to make. And I understand that at the price point for the F8 is not exactly beginniner friendly. But to me, the ability to record four tracks with a safety track each, better preamps than any other recorder I’ve ever had, and time code were the biggest selling points on the F8. I’m pretty green when it comes to sound recording. Which is why I think the F8 is such a good fit for me. On my last shoot, due to circumstances beyond my control, I had to have a pretty inexperienced guy running sound. We were at a pretty noisy location and he kept the mic too far from our talent despite how often we tried to correct him. I had a rode NTG-2 hooked up to a tacam DR-60D and although it does have some rather impressive preamps for the money, they weren’t enough. I’m sure the F8 would have performed a bit better in that regard. Then there were the few rare instances when my talent was so loud the recorder clipped (I’m still scratching my head at this as the rest of the audio clip is ridiculously quiet). A safety track would have been nice there. Also, the amount of time I spend matching sound to video tracks, however large or small, would be greatly diminished with time code. All in all, I think for the money, it’s a pretty great recorder, it seems a lot of people agree. And though I agree one should focus on buying quality gear, I believe I will get good use out of my F8 for a few years to come. To me, it was worth the price I paid.

  11. I agree with all your comments, except I can’t find a video camera that has TC input below the price point where I would need a second mortgage! Any suggestions in this regard would be most welcome.

  12. Oh that’s right Paul, I forgot to mention my solution to that! I have been using a Blackmagic video assist to record just about everything I shoot. The video assist itself has timecode though my D5500 doesn’t. The video assist costs a little under $500. It shoots 1080p at 60fps so I got it for its slow motion capabilities. If you need 4k though, the new video assist will get you there for about $895 I believe. If you have a smaller budget than either of those, Atomos has the ninja 2 for about $295 or so. All of these external recorders have timecode and they will help up the quality of your video as they record in a higher bitrate than your camera supports natively. I hope that helped!

  13. Thanks Sam. I use a Ninja Blade to record 1920p, but I don’t believe it has TC input. I wonder what device could convert the TC from the F8 and record it as an audio channel on the Ninja Blade?

    I can’t justify swapping from the Ninja Blade as I already have 2x 512GB SSD drives for it and the BlackMagic would need me to purchase SDHC cards as well as the device! That’s the trouble with technology, the goal post is always moving. :)

  14. Really enjoyed your article and perspective on the F8. You gave me interesting points to think about that I hadn’t found elsewhere, written in an accessible way. I’m an amateur so your field experience is valuable to me.

  15. Lol this article is funny, do this sam guy not realise that half the skill is in placement and execution of recording not always the device. I use and own an F8 and the signal to noise is incredible, yes sound devices are amazing we get that. But I spoke to Chris Watson who does sound for David Attenborough’s BBC wildlife programmes and he couldn’t stress enough that good sound recording doesn’t come from the price tag at all. Plus you haven’t even given a hands on review? I know this article is years old but it really annoyed me cause its basically like a virgin giving advice on sex.

  16. Hi Sam!

    Thanks for the great review. It’s awesome that experienced people are willing to share their honest opinions about new gear.

    I have a different take on the F8. My world involves a weird mix of live broadcast and Doc work. I come from a very solid Sound Devices background growing up with the 442, then the 552, then add a 744, then the 664 then the 633. I have found a way to break every single one of these on really remote shoots, from the Galapagos Islands to the Serengeti Plane, to the North Pole. The value you get for the money in an F8 is enormous. It’s an easy sell to the producer when you can say I’ll bring a 664 on your shoot…… or five F8s (so when one gets hit with sea water, the show continues…)

    In the doc and reality TV world, we rely on Iso recordings. No more 2 channel mixes. I set a level on a wireless, and don’t touch it for the rest of the day knowing that iso recording will always be there.

    I have fat fingers, and still have no problem with the trim/fader pots.

    I have worked on many multi camera shoots, other sound recordists poo-poo my F8 (I carry 4 of them). I have a little audio test set up for them, very few guess correctly when it comes to audio quality. Yet, I am always the one that can plant a backup recorder in a vehicle, or offers a whole sound bag to an AP, or pulls out an entire backup sound package when the first gets trashed by an airline.

    My advice, don’t just buy one F8, buy 2.

    Sam, your issue with a return is unwarranted. I just built a cable that sends return Left to Channel 7 of the F8 and Right to Channel 8 of the F8. Like you said, rarely do I go over 6 channels in the field. The PFL button on the front panel is a quick press for confidence.

    Live TV:

    It’s all about routing! I started with a Behringer X32 core and an S16 (I need to fly with this!) I have a panel of 5 contributors, each with their own stick mic, and IFB (in ear monitor to listen to master control). That’s 5 in’s and 4 outs (outs are L & R for camera, IFB to talent, and Mix to Master Control via phone line). I have stopped traveling my X32 because the F8 can do all of this!!! It takes a few custom cables, but completely do-able!

    My Advice: Buy an F8. Only $1000. Find out what it can do for you. You’ll be pleasantly surprised. If you need more, then got out and get a Zaxcom or a Sound Devices. Don’t let other location Audio people poo-poo your gear. Don’t feel inferior to other Location Sound recordists because you didn’t buy into Zaxcom or have a 664 in your bag. As a new sound recordist, it’s more about your attitude and ability on set than it is about the gear you have in your bag.

    Sam, thank you for providing this forum! This is the type of discussion we need to honestly evaluate gear amongst professionals.

    To the people that are going to flame me for my comments: please choose your words carefully. You are judged on your command of the English language. Your credibility is based solely on your eloquence, not how many ways you can say ‘F8 sux’.

    L

  17. Just out of curiosity , am I the only one that has noticed a big lack of low end and a not so great definition in the midrange ? I mean, is not too bad for the price but any of you would use an F8 on a feature ?

  18. I have not noticed any deficiencies, and in fact I AM using it on recording a 90min feature film. However everyone needs to make up their own minds, so use whatever satisfies and is within budget.

  19. Hi guys. I definitely agree with Sam. Have used F8 for a two day video job recently. Positive feedback: good quality preamps. That´s where it ends. Negatives: lack of real hands-on faders, lack of a camera return. F8 allows you to change hi-pass filter settings during recording while it ruins the recorded sound when any change is made ! Nowadays, there´s a big pressure on gear price. Some guys will definitely find it attractive to rent this for 1/2 of a rental price of SD 633, but that´s just wrong. In fact, to use F8 requires a genius operator that will manage to win the battle with this item´s traps. F8 is a location sound quality killer unless you use it as a one day recorder when your SD, ZAXCOM, FOSTEX or CANTAR goes wrong. Due to it´s price, it´s going to be (sadly) mostly used by unexperienced audio guys on low-budget video productions that have no brains to avoid fatal mistakes. Sam is completely right. When you´re a production person with no budget for a real pro equipment, you´d rather use the automix option of the Lectrosonics Dual receiver to get your 2CH audio straight to the one channel of your camera rather than using this toy. I don´t understand how you sound guys boasting yourselves for winning “every price” have so much sympathy for this toy.

  20. I think it depends on what you want to do and where you are in your career. A lot of people just cant blow sound devices money. By your own admission, mics are everything.

    Few people can start their career by blowing 15k into mics, wireless, mixer and recorder. You have to spend wisely and think outside the box.

    I’ve been using an F8 now for nearly 6 months and think it’s astonishing for the money (I’d originally assumed it was crap until a pro sound recordist I respect a lot suggested to actually try it out).

    I’ve combined the F8 with an SQN 4S IVe and this relatively low cost mixer (worth thousands in its day) sorts most of the problems. If you get inventive with how you connect it all together (and it is quite a crazy set of routing I’ve got going on), you no longer need to use the relatively mediocre headphone preamp of the F8, you have a breakaway cable solution and 2 channels of world class analogue limiting.

    Mix this with a couple of good mics and some acceptable wireless systems (I”m using G3s with cos11Ds) and you really can perform at a professional level as long as you use the gear.

    Sure its not gear you want to use forever, but it’s truly astonishing the level of work you can now output using under £4000 worth of gear.

  21. Hi Eddie. Personally, I prefer the design of the Zoom H5. But my opinion is subjective. Others likely prefer the design and additional functionality of the H6.

    The H6 seems like it was designed to be used primarily while mounted on the top of a camera, but I find that this is rarely a good place to mount an audio recorder. That said, the handheld body style of the Zoom H5 isn’t easy to mount to a camera, but, I still prefer it. The smaller size of the H5 is a plus.

    Thanks for commenting!

  22. Hi guys, thanks for all replies. After a few more days working with Zoom F8, I have definitely decide not to use it anymore. You can´t really perform a mix with it´s tiny “faders” !. You can´t change high pass fiter parameters while recording without ruining the recording ! You listen to quite good quality sound via headphone preamp while recording, but after the shoot, when checking on studio monitors,
    you feel like you´ve been “high” – recorded sound quality is audibly worse than what you´ve heard during recording. This is good for crazy men, who need to fill their DSLR with multiple tracks while having no budget to hire a pro sound person. Good news, but that´s where the skills of this item end.

  23. Last post: remember it´s not good to show production people a non-pro gear just because you save them a money. It´s the sound quality you should deliver ! It´s you and the sound quality that suffer with bad gear.
    Best regards
    Martin
    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1280184/

  24. its an interesting review.
    i agree its not a sound devices but the fact it has timecode for such a cheap price opens up the ability for a bunch of people to start follwing the discipline of timecode syncing and TOD timecode rather than using other devices that don’t do that.

    similarly as a backup to a sound devices it has merit. there’s a bunch of low budget indie doco, features and even web that can benefit from this sort of unit.

    just another perspective anyway

  25. It depends what your needs are. The 702 is a great machine, and it’s built like a Siberian tank, but it’s also a bit of a dated design. It records to bulky CompactFlash cards, it has somewhat outdated FireWire connectivity, it’s powered from bulky video camera batteries, it’s expensive, and on top of all of that it’s limited to two tracks.

    In its day (the mid-2000’s) the 702 was a good choice for the aspiring location sound person who couldn’t afford a Sound Devices 744. These days there are better options for that type of person.

    Without knowing your needs, I’d say the Zoom F4 has pretty good bang for the buck.

  26. All of your points are good ones. I was sort of reluctant to even read them once I knew where you were going because I purchased one of these things and it drummed up old feelings of buying inferior. But the point I want to make is one that is, I think, equally valuable to yours. I’m not arguing against your position, mind you. I’m just putting this out there.

    I have been directing stuff for 20 years. You and every person reading this blog has seen work that I have done, unless, like me you don’t watch TV or music videos. I started as an indie guy, after having done 5 years in HUGE blockbuster VFX films as a 3D guy. In those days, I hired doc film crew and we rented expensive gear–The Sony F900 was a $100,000 camera body delivering GORGEOUS HD video but easily crushed by today’s low-end professional gear.

    Next came the joy of lower cost HD like the Panasonic HVX200.

    As my resume and list of accomplishments grew, I was able to buy gear that better matched the stuff we were producing. The temptation to really splurge was always there because I had work that warranted these purchases, despite the fact that I would only be actively IN production maybe 30-40 days per year. I was a director; not a gear head. But the more people I hired, the more these purchases seemed valid.

    Skip ahead a few years…

    I finally make a conscious effort to NOT purchase new stuff. I was building a home and raising a family and less interested in bringing into my life another generation of gear that would just stress me out because I am never satisfied with my employees’ ability to master equipment (if they are creative like me and those are the only ones I want to work with) and I myself never have the patience to learn everything (or in some cases anything) about the gear I have.

    So what does it make me do? Look outside the walls of our studio more. I begin to meet and hire more and more freelancers who LOVE gear and who work 10x more than I do and who cannot, whether the budget is there or not, help themselves from wanting to use their equipment on my shoots. All types. Sound. Gaffing. Camera. It’s the nature of the beast of film. It’s how we show off that we are “good”.

    Here’s the point:
    If you are reading this and you are a creative person with ADD like so many of us are, you feel a bit like a fraud as you plod your way through this life that the kind of people who understand how to send timecode and why it matters seem to handle so effortlessly. And because of that internal disadvantage you look for ways to prop yourself up, to feel more legit (those guys actually do it too, but for different reasons that they have less trouble justifying). You buy the best shit. Let’s stick for now with the audio example: You get 4 countryman b6 mics to go with your 4 lectro LR / TR lavs and your . Not to mention your SD664. Yet you find yourself still at a loss. You don’t know the gear like you know you should. And you don’t work enough to warrant making that purchase. At least not without becoming a straight up sound person. And you want to MAKE STUFF! That’s what you are good at. You have a creative brain, Dammit!

    The filmmaking world wants you to fail. It wants you to become a gear head who spends his time organizing his crap in a gear closet and reading manuals and updating firmware. Because the filmmaking world is FULL of average-minded creatives with often well-above average technical minds. They would LOVE to be creative. Yet those guys know better. They know what they are. They know what they’re good at. And they’re good at working hard to understand minutia so they can deliver spot-on sound for clients. Or at blogging, honestly. Not that the writer here is one of them, but he could be. I think it takes a very disciplined organized mind to be a blogger. I’d love to. Instead, I occassionally chime in with comments. That’s the best my erratic sputtering self can pull off. But I also guarantee that 90% of the bloggers would watch things that I’ve done and think, “Wow. If only I could…”

    If you have stories to tell or you see an image in your mind or find an image and work it until you love it before hitting the red button… If you have a love for ideas and communicating them… If you have a billion ideas and can’t figure out how to start the next one… BUY THE H8. I’m not saying to buy cheap gear. Don’t get the crap that you’re looking at on Amazon like $50 c-stands. But don’t go all out either. Aim not for impressing people with what you have in your bag but what you can say with what you have. And the BEST way to do that for MANY of us is by buying high-quality but simplified equipment that won’t slow us down from storytelling. THAT is the right move for a lot of us filmmakers.

    It took me a string of years of really serious success to understand that for myself and to be proud of the fact that I would never know most of the technical things that come naturally to others. And when I want to do personal projects today, I know my simple equipment and can turn on a green light and just plain go for it. I get stuff done. I don’t have excuses. I don’t have too much junk to figure out what’s where. I don’t have a learning curve to conquer. I just make things that I love to make.

    And what it has done for me is it has allowed me to save money, to prioritize what I really value in life, and incidentally to become really, really successful in work that matters to me. I don’t think that was an accident. It happened when I stopped caring about who has what and what I need to “become” something. AND BEST OF ALL… since I don’t have that $35,000 sound setup or the Alexa, I can just work with people who do. They bring so much more to what I do than I ever could on my own.

    If you are one of those guys, save up and splurge. I’m sure that equipment is WAY better and you will totally know exactly why. If you’re like me and you’ll never know why… Know this instead: for you, having those things are a hindrance.

  27. Thanks for sharing, JC. I’m a big fan of epically long comments. It sounds like you bought the right audio recorder for yourself.

    I was pursuing being a full-time location sound person six years ago, but one of the reasons I ultimately decided not to do it was that I realized how far removed it was from the creative side of filmmaking. In hindsight it seems obvious, but that’s always the case. I have a day job in marketing, and the things I do require a lot more creative thought than putting lav mics on people, setting levels, and hoisting boom mics.

    This blog is a creative outlet for me because I love to write. Even within the constraints of writing about nerdy equipment, I feel a lot of freedom to express and entertain. But I fully admit that it’s something I primarily do because it helps pay the bills. There is music I should be making, but a lot of the time I do this. It will be made, though. The book isn’t closed on my creative ambitions.

    I don’t agree with everything you said in your comment, but that’s fine. I agree fully with the overarching point that people should just make their projects and not let gear get in the way. Gear is the enemy, with the possible exception of your Alexa.

  28. I don’t agree with everything I said in my comments either. Or maybe I do. I can’t remember. I can see why you would defend your position. If someone called me out for be any ONE thing, I’d be defensive too. So you know for sure, I wasn’t knocking you and I hope a reader wouldn’t take that point away. Nor was I saying that you were a gear head or that being one always precludes being highly creative. I don’t know you or anything about you other than that you have the capacity to write fairly expertly on a mixer, which means you could well fit the bill.

    But people writing about gear and reviewing gear are writing about gear and reviewing gear. Nobody is writing about the philosophy of buying or the psychology of why we buy (gear). So for that reason mine is an important message for readers….

    Slogging through innumerable posts and comparisons and tests and REALLY astute reviews of trade products can devour countless hours of time. We’ll be really well educated about the products for it. But that time won’t help us with the self-discipline to say “no” when we are in a financial position to say yes. And we will not likely get any better at making thoughtful decisions about our choices.

    There’s no outlet for that conversation (or introspection) but it should be an implicit part of any gear review for a lot of people. That’s why I wasted 20 minutes to say it to the 11 of them who read all the way down the comments and had the patience to sit through my scatterbrained screed.

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